April 2015: (Updated February 2016)
The tropical country of Maldives has been regarded as one of the most expensive tourist destinations in Asia. With rates that can go as high as 500-1000 USD per night (airfare excluded), it seemed to be a destination exclusive alone for the wealthy who can afford the place. Recent changes, however, made these picturesque islands of Maldives accessible for budget travelers alike.
For a total of 4 days, we spent a little less than 850 USD/person including airfare and airport taxes. It’s still expensive compare to other nearby countries that you can tour in a relatively cheaper amount but I say the place is just truly worth it!
There are no direct flights from Manila going to Male. However, Tigerair offers a connecting flight via Manila-Singapore-Male route with more than 5 hours layover in Singapore. There are other airlines as well but I think Tigerair is the only budget carrier up to date. You can book a round trip ticket for an estimate of 18,000. But that still depends.
TIP: If your travel dates are somehow flexible, try spotting piso fares or seat sales (even in other airlines) first of Manila-Singapore route. It would really help you cut the budget if you’re lucky enough to spot one. And then just book another flight from Singapore going to Male via Tigerair. Thursday is usually their seat sale days. Just be patient if you’re eyeing for the promo fares. It can really be frustrating at times.
UPDATE: Airasia is now offering a direct flight to Male from Kuala Lumpur. The fare is slightly cheaper compared to TigerAir.
Where to Stay
It is important to consider the distance of the island you would want to stay at from the airport. Since the whole country is made up of bodies of water, public boat or speedboat is their main mode of transportation. However, too far islands can only be accessible via a seaplane. And riding one will definitely cost a huge chunk on your budget. So it is just advisable to choose an island close to Male.
A very good option can be the island of Maafushi. It is an inhabited island where you can find budget guesthouses that could range from 40-50 USD/night (breakfast included). You can reach the island in a matter of 30 minutes via a speedboat. Just do the arrangements with the guesthouse of your choice. I think a one-way ride costs about 150 USD. It is still expensive especially if you’re not traveling in a group, so if you are really keen on your budget, I suggest you take the public ferry instead. A 2-hour travel time wouldn’t hurt that much for a 2 USD one-way fare. 🙂
NOTE: These budget guesthouses are located in an inhabited island. And since there will be locals around, please be mindful of certain restrictions. Maldives is an ISLAMIC country and being as such prohibits consumption of alcohol and any pork or pork-containing substances. You won’t be able to find pork or alcohol in the island. Women also need to observe dressing modestly. Plunging necklines, too short shorts, and all sort of revealing clothing are not allowed in a public island and may show disrespect to the locals. Bikinis though are allowed in the designated ‘Bikini Area’ of the beach. Of course you wouldn’t have to worry about any of these if you will be staying in an exclusive resort, as they are all located in an uninhabited island.
What to do
Despite staying in an inhabited island, you can still indulge yourself in seeing the water bungalows Maldives had been famous for. Typically, every guesthouse offers a day trip to these exclusive resorts. Just coordinate with the guesthouse personnel so they can arrange it for you. Other set of activities would include snorkeling, sandbank trip, dolphin watching, island hopping, fishing and of course diving as they also boast some of the great dive spots around. 🙂
- Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) is the currency used in their country but US Dollar is also widely accepted. We recommend that you have at least 100 USD worth of MVR that you can use in paying transpo fares as they are somehow rounding up the amount if it is not in exact USD. 15 MVR = 1 USD was the exchange rate back then. Money changer is available at the arrival area of the airport.
- Male is accessible from Ibrahim Nazir International Airport via their public ferry. Fare is approximately 20 MVR for a 10-20 minute ferry ride.
- Vilingilli Port is the port where the ferries bound to provincial islands depart. It is accessible from Male via taxi for a 15-20 minute ride. Their taxi rate is fixed at 25 MVR/ride. Provincial island ferries depart on a scheduled basis. Kindly refer to the link below for their schedule. Fare is approximately 1.5 USD for a 1 ½ – 2-hour ride. Click here for the ferry schedules.
- Be guided that there are no public ferries departing to and from the provincial islands on a Friday.
- Roundtrip ticket (Manila to SG to Malé to SG to Manila): 397.72USD/Pax
- Travel Tax: 36.8USD/pax
- Terminal fee: 12.5USD/pax
- Transpo (public): 3.65USD/ pax
- Private airport transfer (Maafushi to Airport): 25USD/pax (may vary)
- Hotel accommodation: 55.5USD/pax
- Excursion: 225USD/pax (with scuba diving)
- Food: 67USD/pax
- Total: 823USD/pax